Head teachers in Slough will be supported by the council in making changes “to protect the operational viability of their school” after it was announced primary schools in the borough would reopen as normal tomorrow (Monday).
Slough Borough Council (SBC) said with Covid case rates high in the borough and surrounding Tier 4 areas, “schools will be making difficult decisions on how they can best operate in very testing circumstances”.
It comes after education secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed on Friday that all of London’s primary schools would remain shut to most students.
Primary schools in the capital and some surrounding areas are not due to reopen until January 18, but elsewhere, including Slough, students are expected to return to classrooms on Monday.
An SBC spokesman said: “With covid case rates high locally and in our surrounding areas, concerns over covid safety of both children and staff, and many staff, families and children stricken with this virus, isolating or living with those who are vulnerable, schools will be making difficult decisions on how they can best operate in very testing circumstances.
“As a council we strongly support our head teachers in any changes they feel they need to make to protect the operational viability of their school and so they can continue to provide the best service to children.
“We have been in contact with our head teachers throughout the weekend and they are dedicated to finding the best solution for your children; no one knows their school, their staff, their families better than our head teachers and they have our support, operationally and morally.
“We are aware some schools have already made the decision, that due to their individual circumstances they are unable to open and they will be contacting parents directly.
“Slough Borough Council does not have the power to close a school. Only the schools themselves or the government can order the closure of a school or schools.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged parents to send primary-aged schoolchildren back tomorrow, insisting “schools are safe” on The Andrew Marr Show this morning.
Cllr Martin Carter, lead member for children and schools, said: “We completely understand the turmoil parents are going through, and we have requested an urgent meeting with the Department for Education to stress the need for consistent and transparent decision making around the opening of schools, including the criteria they used to close schools in London but leave areas with high rates just outside the M25 open as usual.
“That decision has sown confusion across the board and left our schools in a very difficult position.
“However, one thing is clear; both we, and all our schools, want what is best for Slough children and any decisions will be made with the health and wellbeing of children at the forefront of schools’ minds.”
He added: “Parents of children who may be vulnerable will need to make individual decisions based on their own children and their own family circumstances.
“We understand this will be difficult, however we do ask any parent with concerns to speak to their child’s school to discuss safety measures in place before keeping their child at home when the school is open to them.”
And Slough MP Tan Dhesi tweeted: “High Covid rates mean more school closures inevitable but PM Johnson has instructed all Slough schools remain open.
“Govt failure to contain virus and inconsistent decision making is leading to confusion, chaos and stress.
“I’ll continue to support schools since they know best.”
Current Covid rates in Slough are 781.1 per 100,000 of the population. There were 252 new cases reported on 2 January (latest figures).